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Abstract

This paper covers the actions of the UNHCR in the year and a half leading up to Angola's independence from Portugal, during 1974 and 1975. This period was marked by a rapidly deteriorating political climate in which Angola's three major armed liberation movements struggled for control over the nascent state. The conflict was fuelled by superpower rivalries and outside military interventions. The fighting was preceded by efforts on the part of the liberation movements to repatriate hundreds of thousands of refugees to bolster their own political positions. The UNHCR was confronted with this highly charged situation as it tried to navigate between competing interests to facilitate refugee repatriation. Unfortunately for the agency, their efforts only met with limited success. Disagreements between the rival movements, the increasing tempo of the civil war, Portuguese lack of will, and concerns over the nature of the agency's mandate impeded its activities. Although many of the specific problems faced by the agency at the time have lost some current relevance, other issues such as the burning question of neutrality in conflict zones remains pertinent. Examining past agency failures can help to avoid similar pitfalls in the future.

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